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What's in a word? Example, essence, direction

Ysabel de la Rosa
I follow a fascinating blog, Reiter's Block by Jendi Reiter. It is substantive and courageous. In addition to being a working writer / author and working as part of the Winning Writers team, Jendi blogs about gender prejudice and injustices committed toward the LGBT community.

In a recent post, Jendi links to a Rolling Stone article, "One Town's War on Gay Teens."  It's hard to read. It is, in fact, heartbreaking. I encourage you to follow the link above and to read the piece in its entirety. It is well-written and shares a truth that needs facing. The most heartbreaking part, though, is that the bullying comes from the "Christian" community. Let me say that again:  the bullies call themselves Christians.  The bullying ranges from verbal abuse to physical violence. It is perpetrated not only by teenagers, but also by adults.

I understand that, even within one faith community, there can be many different beliefs and opinions, even likes and dislikes. I also  understand that the word Christian has a clear root and that it stands for certain key principles, principles that may indeed be illustrated in the Bible, but above all are illustrated in the teacher called Jesus Christ.

Yes, there are brief references in the Old Testament and in some  letters attributed to the apostle Paul that indicate that sexual activity and intercourse between members of the same gender was not approved of. (And, cuidado, our friend Paul was no fan of heterosexual relationships, either, if you go by certain texts!) However, please note:  Christians do not call themselves Biblians or Paulians. We call ourselves Christians, because the most important element of our spiritual practice is learning from and journeying with a teacher who was called Jesus and later known as Christ, from the Greek Christos, "the anointed one."

Jesus instructed us not to judge our fellow humans. We have no evidence whatsoever that he did not accept homosexuals as readily as he did others. And, his instruction to love our neighbor is unqualified; it is not "next-door neighbor, neighbor who looks like you, neighbor who is richer than you, neighbor with whom you agree, or heterosexual neighbor." It is, simply, neighbor; anyone who is within (our) proximity whether by chance, design, accident or coincidence. Even if a Christian unfortunately and mistakenly sees homosexuals as an "enemy," even then, if you follow Christ, you will and do love them as your neighbors.

Gustave Doré
If we live solely by the Old Testament or by Paul's letters, we cannot possibly live as complete Christians. The Old and New Testament Bible provides the matrix and context for the life of Christ and portrays the example set by him, not the other way around. The context is background. Jesus is front and center. As Marcus Borg writes: "When you encounter a difference between scripture and the life of Christ, Christ trumps scripture." (Paraphrased) Christ was no bully, folks. In fact, you could make the case that the only people he ever chastised were just that: bullies.

I've tried to understand this drive toward bullying gay young people. Usually, bullying behavior is born of the kind of fear that lives in the wordless, reptilian part of our brain. I find it interesting, though, that these same bullies make no noise about the promiscuity of heterosexual teens and how it hurts their lives and development or that they don't devote equal time to protesting the sexually explicit messages that children, teens, and adults are bombarded with in the media. There is real damage brought about by this and our media's overdose of violence.

What are the bullying ones afraid of?  I believe they fear people and situations that are different enough that this difference challenges and disturbs their sense of order. Seeing this difference becomes something that takes them outside the picture frame that surrounds and circumscribes their lives and their thoughts. If they could step outside the frame with love, rather than with fear, what a difference that would make.

I have a number of homosexual friends, some friends from high school, while others have come into my life more recently.  Some have known all their lives what their sexual identity is, others have only recently discovered it and been able to affirm it. I love my friends. And I love that some of them love each other. When I see two of my female friends who form a couple look at each other with love in their eyes, treat each other with honor and respect, walk arm-in-arm down the sidewalk, work hard to support and raise children,* all I can see is the love. It's just all I can see. I enjoy being in the presence of love, whatever shape it takes. To paraphrase Borg a bit, when I am in the presence of real love, that is the trump card for me--not to mention the fact that most of my gay friends are dedicated, practicing Christians.

I learned a long time ago that sexual orientation is a part of our identity. What we do with it, whether that orientation is heterosexual or homosexual, is a reflection of our integrity.

To call ourselves Christian is also to declare a part of our identity. What we do with that declaration is a reflection, not only of our integrity, but also of our honesty.  We cannot... we can NOT ... love our neighbor, refrain from judging others and be a bully at the same time. We can not elevate the Old Testament ahead of the Gospel and call it law. We cannot relegate the example of Christ to the end of our list of priorities in life. We cannot do any of these things and call ourselves Christian. When we do, that word loses it meaning, its essence, its truth, and we who strive to follow this tradition of faith lose that irreplaceable and sacred gift: our personal and spiritual integrity.
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* See results of research on homosexual parents here.

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